Monday was relaxation day. A fellow traveler in my hostel had tipped me off about a 10 Euro sauna at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Heidelberg, right near Bismarckplatz. I decided Monday would be my indulgence day. It was cold out, so I decided that I would do some Christmas shopping earlier in the day so I could get cold enough to warrant a sauna visit, and then head to the hotel. Christmas shopping was successful: I picked up some simple and colorful earrings for my sister, as well as a hot water bottle with an adorable knit cover (the bonds of sisterhood are strong), and a scarf for my aunt. I indulged in some sausage and soup at the markets, and then headed to the Crowne Plaza for an afternoon of relaxation. It. Was. Wonderful.
For about 10 Euro, visitors can stay before 6 pm and use the pool, jacuzzi, relaxation room, sauna, and steam room, or can pay extra for a massage. Since I didn’t have a bathing suit, I stuck to the sauna and the relaxing room (and the couches by the pool). It was an interesting experience: not to get too graphic, but the saunas in Germany are all nude. Strictly nude. So you get a towel, you shower off, and then you strip down and head into a tiny, hot, dark room, where you lie down on the cedar benches and relax for about 10 minutes as your body just sweats. It sounds gross, but is surprisingly relaxing. Germany is known for its openness with regards to the human body, so being naked in a sauna is nothing to them – as an American, this was a little off-putting, but I have always been pretty open (competitive dance quickly taught me how to shamelessly strip down for quick costume changes, and it’s an attitude that’s stuck with me), so I shed my layer of Americanness in exchange for a coat of German luxury. I spent several hours relaxing in nothing but a towel by the pool, letting myself drift into a gentle slumber in between sauna sessions. I left feeling relaxed, clean, and completely content. Not to mention how unbelievably soft my skin was – amazing!
I headed out again that night after freshening up a bit, opting to check out Destille again since it always seemed to be full of people. First, however, I stopped by one of the Christmas markets for kartofferpuffen (I think thats how you spell it) and more bratwurst. The former is a delicious fried potato pancake, a lot like latkes, served with apple sauce (apfelmus), which I enjoyed every bite of. I ate my bratwurst like a pro, hardly getting any on my fingers! And I was right, after my “dinner” on the go, Destille was packed as usual and had all the feelings of a German bar: warm, cozy, and laughter in the air. I bought a beer and a shot of Jager (since I hadn’t had any yet), and hung around hoping to meet some people. I did, as usual, and the highlight was probably this: they were two friends who had lived in Germany almost their whole lives, but one was born in Palestine and the other in Israel. Yeah. Take that, Hilary Clinton. The other highlight were the shots we took of vodka with an anchovy chaser, called the “Executioner” (but in German). The anchovy was hung on a little toothpick laid on top of the shot, and it was surprisingly good. Who knew fish could be so versatile? It was a great night, and as I walked home I felt like I had spent my four days well: enjoying the local fare, spending time with crazy Germans and their delicious beer, making new friends, and taking in the beauty and wintry wonder of the city. I didn’t want to leave the next day, and although some locals tried to convince me to stay, I knew Paris was calling me home. Unfortunately.